book review

Book Review: Dragon Called

Dragon Called (Deadweed Dragons #1) by Ava Richardson – eBook,

A huge thanks to Hidden Gems for providing me with a copy of this book!

This is the first book in a fantasy series by Ava Richardson called Deadweed Dragons. It follows a young woman called Dayie, who is working for a family of Dragon Traders that purchased her after the death of her foster parents. She finds herself stealing an egg from the Torvald dragon caves for them, which hatches prematurely. Miraculously, Dayie bonds with the dragon immediately, and within weeks it’s grown bigger than a horse.

Dayie travels to Dagfan in hopes of joining the Training Hall, but is disappointed when she sees the reality of it. With the help of her old owner’s son and a rather disgruntled young man named Akeem, Dayie attempts to fix the ways of the Hall, while fighting the deadly spread of deadweed.

This was a very enjoyable book, with an interesting plot and some good characters. There were a lot of mistakes that I noticed, but this may be due to my copy only being an ARC and not the final release copy. I also found some of the language to be awkward and unnatural, and there was some repetition in areas. Dayie and Akeem are both young adults, older than most protagonists of similar novels, but the writing was slightly young in my own opinion. Still, I did enjoy this book and am interested in finding some answers to a few things brought up by this book! So I’m giving this 3.5 stars out of 5.

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Book Review: Little Darlings

Little Darlings by Melanie Golding – eBook, 336 pages Published April 30th 2019 by HarperAvenue

I am a huge fan of thriller, detective and suspense novels. I also adore fantasy elements, which this book incorporated fantastically.

Right from the very beginning, this novel creates a sense of unease and suspense. Even when Lauren meets her twin sons, I felt myself waiting for something to happen.

Throughout the novel are excerpts of folk tales, fairy-tales, rhymes and so on relating to changelings. So naturally, you expect something to happen within this area. It made it so much more exciting, like you are always waiting for something bad to happen.

What I especially liked about this novel was that it really blurred the lines between reality and fantasy or even the supernatural. I don’t want to ruin this for anyone who may read it, but the ending is somewhat open. It leaves space for your own interpretation; though certain things are strongly hinted at. All throughout the novel there is an ongoing debate as to whether the ‘case’ of Lauren Tranter is an actual criminal case, or simply a mental health case. I found this super intriguing.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

Overall, this was a great book. The ending could be seen as somewhat unfulfilling, but I liked how it left some things to the readers’ own imagination. 4 out of 5 stars!

TRILOGY Review: The Firebird Chronicles

The Firebird Chronicles is a children’s/young adult fantasy series following two young Apprentice Adventurers, Scoop and Fletcher.

Rise of the Shadow Stealers (The Firebird Chronicles #1) by Daniel Ingram-Brown – eBook, Published January 25th 2013 by Our Street Books

The first book, Rise of the Shadow Stealers, follows the confused youngsters as they make sense of their surroundings. Neither has any memories of who they are or where they come from, and with the help of their mentor, the Yarnbard, they slowly piece together the story of their past.

Throughout the book, Scoop and Fletcher are held back by Grizelda, an evil old woman who’s determined to take control of the land. They are set monumental tasks by the mysterious Storyteller – the creator and controller of the world they live in. Grizelda desperately tries to prevent them from succeeding at every turn.

My immediate reaction to this book was that I was too old for it. I always emphasise the fact that children’s books can still be good books, enjoyed by any reader. This was, in all honesty, not fantastic. The plot wasn’t bad, and it wasn’t exactly hard to read, but the writing wasn’t particularly outstanding and there were tons of grammatical errors. One recurring mistake I noticed was the misuse of “passed” and “past”. Little things like that really affect how professional a book feels, or how immature the writing comes across.

2.5 stars for this book. The plot was okay, but the characters and speech were overly childish and didn’t feel authentic.

The Nemesis Charm (The Firebird Chronicles #2) by Daniel Ingram-Brown – eBook, Published May 27th 2016 by Our Street Books

The second instalment of this series is The Nemesis Charm. While this book had similar issues with character development, speech and grammar, I found it slightly better than the predecessor.

After rediscovering their identities, Scoop and Fletcher have settled into their lives and begun building a relationship with their parents. But of course, this calm does not remain for long. Soon, citizens are falling ill with a mysterious sleeping disease, the Storyteller’s Princess among them. Yet again, Scoop and Fletcher are tasked with saving everyone.

Grizelda continues to fight them at every step, while raising her own army and attempting to take control of the world (again). Scoop and Fletcher find themselves travelling with a Dark Pirate towards the Threshold, the Uncrossable Boundary to a mysterious world beyond.

There is also a whole other side to their story – the real Storyteller, if you will. A girl in Leeds called Libby, who is continuing the story her missing mother began.

I got strong Inkheart vibes from this series. The main difference was that this seemed a whole lot more immature, and amateurish, honestly. There were still so many mistakes, and Grizelda really felt like a typical children’s villain. I think this is supposed to be ‘cheesy’ and predictable to a certain extent, as it is playing on the idea of stories and heroes and so on, but it was hard to take it seriously at times.

2.5 to 3 stars for the second Firebird Chronicles book. It was alright, clever and exciting, but still had its faults.

Through the Uncrossable Boundary (The Firebird Chronicles #3) by Danial Ingram-Brown – eBook, Published November 30th 2018 by Our Street Books

The final book in this trilogy is called Through the Uncrossable Boundary. I think you can guess what that means.

In my opinion, this was the strongest book of the three. Again, it still had a fair few errors, but it was unpredictable and unique. Everything was finally explained in full, and the ending was tidy and satisfying. There was loss and heartbreak, and massive revelations.

Basically, Fletcher and Scoop end up in our world. While this is a little predictable, and some of the following events may be a little cheesy, I think it was quite good. It was a nice ending to the trilogy.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

3 stars for the final book.

Book Review: The Silent Patient

I’m really glad I found this book – it was almost perfect for me! The narrator, Theo Faber, is a forensic psychotherapist, which is what I’m studying at uni starting this September! I will admit this possibly made the job out to be a lot more exciting and dramatic than it often is in reality, but pretty much every book on this topic does the same thing. It did include a fair amount of subject-specific terminology which I appreciated, but not so much that it was overwhelming or too much like a textbook.

I’m not going to discuss the plot much at all, as a) it’s really quite confusing, and b) I don’t want to ruin it at all for any potential readers. The bare bones of this is basically Theo working with Alicia Berenson, who was charged for the murder of her husband, but hasn’t talked since the day of his death. It’s almost a detective novel – Theo wants to find out what really happened, and why. At the same time, Theo has things going on in his personal life, and in his spare time he also follows ‘leads’ regarding Alicia’s case – her friends, family. It becomes more than just therapy, for sure.

As expected, there are twists and shocking discoveries – but I really did not expect one of these in particular. I found it fantastic; not cheesy or predictable at all.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

My only criticisms are a few typos – which may be due to my copy only being an ARC – as well as the fact that some aspects were perhaps a bit overly dramatic. Theo’s actions at one point are really quite… drastic. Unbelievable, almost. But then, I suppose some people do handle things in similar ways.

4.5 stars for The Silent Patient.

Book Review: The Hunting Party

The Hunting Party

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley – ebook (ARC), Published December 3rd 2018 by HarperCollins

This was an incredibly interesting book. I’ve read several novels which alternate between different characters’ narrations, but this took that to a whole new level. Not only did we switch between characters regularly, we even switched between first and third person narrative. I found this a very unique choice.

At first, I will admit that the sheer number of different perspectives was a bit overwhelming. It was hard to keep up with who was who. But as I got further into the story I was able to make sense of things more, and I could tell what was important to the story and so on.

This is, essentially, a ‘whodunit’ kind of book. There is a large group of people isolated in the middle of nowhere, and a dead body. One of these remaining people must be responsible for the murder.

As well as the switching narratives, the story flips between ‘before’ the murder and ‘after’. Most of the first part of the novel is before, and we begin to learn about the group of guests’ past and relationships with one another. Bit by bit we see that everything is not quite as rosy as it first seemed.

The way the story slowly unravels was fantastic. Thrilling, exciting. And the number of revelations that are revealed one by one… As the reader, we don’t know which of these is important, and which is just a red herring. Everyone seems to have their issues, but does that mean they’re capable of murder?

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Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

Once I got familiar with all the different characters and plots going on, I really enjoyed this. The pace increased dramatically toward the end, making it hard to put the book down. I’m giving this 4 to 4.5 stars.

Book Review: Rivers of the Sky

A huge thanks to Hidden Gems for providing me with the opportunity to access a copy of this book!

This was pretty different from books I normally read, and it took a little getting used to. But once I was into it, I really was immersed in the world created by Liguori. I found myself growing fond of the protagonist (if you can really call him that) as his emotions slowly came out.

It had the feel of a traditional fantasy tale, a story of rogue outlaws travelling through cities and towns and wilderness. Their camaraderie builds throughout their journey, and the relationship between the three men is really quite heartwarming by the end of the novel.

Much of the novel seemed realistic, like an alternative universe somewhere that didn’t differ too much from our own. But then the real fantasy elements came into play – magic, almost. Deities and the River of Transmigration, not to mention Adrian’s ‘curse’. Soon, the original goal of the men is abandoned, and a new focus is attained; curing this curse of Adrian’s. This new journey brings about some unexpected revelations, which somehow even I hadn’t seen coming.

There are faults with this, but nothing that took away from my overall enjoyment. I’m giving this book 4 stars.

Book Review: Arrangement in Black and White

I received the opportunity to read this book in return for my review earlier this year. Unfortunately, health issues and school work have caused a huge delay in the posting of this review. But here it is now!

As usual, I didn’t know anything about the book before I read it. I love the sense of surprise and uncertainty. This managed to be extremely unexpected, in my opinion. It really was nothing like I expected – and I didn’t even have any expectations.

This novel jumps back and forth across the timeline quite frequently, but the main body of it takes place during Margy Winters’ adulthood and married life with Everet Hamilton. Margy is white, and Everet is black. This is quite a key aspect to the novel.

Everet is also considering running for Mayor. Margy isn’t so keen on this idea, and their marriage is becoming increasingly strained. Margy’s rage finally erupts, and she stabs her husband with a letter opener, before fleeing. She then runs away with a fellow art student (who is far younger than herself) for a few days.

I’m not going to continue outlining the plot; it’s quite complicated, and I don’t want to spoil anything. But we see Margy attempt to patch her life together, while recalling memories both wonderful and horrific. She describes her time in Paris, where she ran away from her parents, and her past relationships with several men. She also describes her childhood and her strained relationship with her mother, who has a few mental health issues.

My only real criticism of this book is that I didn’t quite feel anything, really. There was a lack of emotion, especially from Margy herself. I frequently found myself confused and unsure of whether her situation was a comedic one or a serious one.

The most intriguing part of this novel for me was Margy’s recollection of Paris. Her encounters were extremely interesting, and her relationship with Josef especially was full of suspense. However, I still felt that strange lack of emotion, which made it a bit hard to really follow at times.

Overall, this was a very fascinating and enjoyable novel. It tackled the huge issue of racism, especially in the past, very effectively. 3.5 stars.

Book Review: Thy Killer’s Keeper

You’d be forgiven for believing this is an ordinary detective novel. I thought it was throughout most of the book, honestly. But there are some vital and very unique aspects that are definitely science-fiction, even bordering on paranormal.

Detective John Salton is sent to work on a homicide case near Eureka. The case has no clear links to previous cases, but John is certain that it is the work of the same killer of almost a dozen other cases over the past nine years. The only link is the killer’s strange, morbid sense of curiosity – expressed through acts of violence toward the victim after they’re already dead.

At the same time, John is visiting his autistic son at the new care centre in Eureka. He admits to his partner, Ruby, that he believes the death of his wife – perpetrated by his own son – was also somehow caused by this same serial killer. But how is that possible?

This was truly exciting and intriguing throughout, and I was always waiting to see what happened next. Links to the fertility clinic were soon suggested, which added even more intrigue and excitement. It was superbly clever and incredibly unique. I’ve certainly not come across anything like this before.

At the end especially, the sci-fi elements became almost overpowering. It stopped feeling like so much of a deterctive/crime novel and more of a paranormal thriller or something. I personally thought it was a bit too paranormal, too far-fetched almost. But again, it was well thought out and clever. Though some parts were not particularly well explained in my opinion and kind of went over my head, honestly.

There were a fair few typos and spelling mistakes, such as names being spelled differently, which gave the novel a bit of an amateurish feel. I received an ARC though (thanks to Hidden Gems), and so the final publication may not include so many mistakes.

I thoroughly enjoyed the detective side of this novel, but the sci-fi aspects became a bit too overwhelming. 3.5 stars.

 

Book Review: Sophie Last Seen

This was, somehow, more emotional than I originally anticipated. It’s about the mother of a girl who went missing at the age of 10, six years ago. So I knew it was going to quite a hard read. But… wow.
I’m going to be super careful here, as I really don’t want to give anything away for potential readers. There are a few sub-plots that I may reference, but I don’t think that will ruin the main story.
Jesse Albright is the mother of Sophie, or ‘Bird Girl’ as the media dubbed her. Sophie was a difficult child, with some kind of condition that doctors couldn’t quite pinpoint. The only thing that really kept her calm when she reached the ‘red zone’ was birds. She watched them, read about them, wrote about them, drew them… Hence the title ‘Bird Girl’.
The book is set six years after Sophie’s disappearance. Jesse has seoarated from her husband, who has a new family, but she still lives in the old family home. She collects ‘clues’ that she believes Sophie has left her – anything from clothing to road signs to letters. Sophie’s case was never closed; Jesse is determined to find her daughter.
Sophie’s best friend, Star, has a lot of issues of her own. Her grief manifests itself in the form of Sophie’s ‘ghost’, and the only way for Star to keep her away is cutting herself.
Jesse’s relationships with everyone – her ex-husband, her friends, even Star – have been almost completely severed. Her life is a mess. She can’t paint anymore, her house is full of junk, and even being near the now-teenage Star is painful.
That’s all I’m really going to say about the plot. Jesse continues to look for her daughter, with the help of a detective working on another missing girl case.
Jesse’s desperation is palpable; my heart broke for her. Her life was a downward spiral, and everything she did seemed to make it worse. When she started to re-build connections, and even build new ones, I was so happy for her. Slowly, she edged closer to happiness, even if she will never really get closure.
The small details Adelstein used to link Jesse’s later life to her old life with Sophie were fantastic. They were possibly a little romantic, but I think they were sweet. (The crows visiting Jesse and Star right at the end was probably the best.)
Throughout the whole book I shared Jesse’s tentative optimism, despite all the signs against Sophie being alive. I thought this was really fantastic. 5 stars!

Book Review: Dark Fantasy Stories

Dark Fantasy Stories (Illustrated) by S.S. WolffA huge thanks to Hidden Gems for providing me with the opportunity to read this anthology!

I haven’t read a huge amount of anthologies but am becoming increasingly fond of them. I like having a collection of similar but unique stories all in one place. I was under the impression that these would be quite creepy/scary stories, but they were only slightly ‘dark’ in my opinion. They all had fantasy elements, as the title would suggest, and were all rather good.

Of course, as it’s an anthology, I’m not really reviewing the individual authors’ writing. Instead, I’m going to focus on the editing and the selection of the stories included. The chouces are definitely quite unique, all fantasy tales with supernatural elements. There were some that I especially enjoyed, and some I was not quite so fond of. Overall, I think there was a pretty good range of stories.

As for the editing, I did notice some strange mistakes. There was misplaced punctuation, for example, and I saw a few letters replaced by ‘lookalikes’ – such as replaced by rn. As the copy I own is a review copy, it is possible that the mistakes I noticed were edited out in the final publication, though.

It was a rather short book, which can be seen as both a good and bad thing. 3.5 stars.